Explainer Videos

PICK OF THE WEEK: The New Plastics Economy (Explainer Video)

Blake Harris 05.31.2016

Most of us use plastics on a daily basis. Nevertheless, most of us probably don’t ever think twice about the economics of plastic. Luckily, however, getting viewers to think more deeply about seemingly ordinary topics is just one of the many benefits that an explainer video can offer. For proof of that, look no further than The New Plastics Economy, a fast-paced, thoughtful explainer that we’ve selected as our PICK OF THE WEEK.

The New Plastics Economy was produced by IDEO, an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow. This explainer was animated by Simon Tibbs, a London-based art director who specializes in animation and motion graphics. In recent years, Tibbs has done work for a handful of prestigious clients, ranging from the BBC (featured below) and MTV to Google and the NFL (featured below).

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BBC Academy Media Law- Defamation (1:15)

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NFL – A Rookie’s Guide (1:18)

As seen in both Defamation and A Rookie’s Guide, Tibbs has a great talent for using meticulously manicured motion graphics to add nuance and depth (as well as an element of fun) into the subject matters he tackles. Traits which are readily on display in The New Plastics Economy and help elevate his approach to the topic from explanation to impact. Without further ado, here’s the explainer video:

3 Things We Loved About This Explainer Video:

1. Great Balance of Fun and Professionalism

The biggest fear for most clients is that–in the pursuit of fun–their explainer video will become too silly. And given the purpose of most explainer videos (to introduce businesses, products, historical events, etc.) that’s a very real concern. Because for an explainer video to be effective, it must be taken seriously. But, at the same time, most effective explainer videos tend to also incorporate elements of fun. So…how is that possible, one might wonder?

The answer is not easily. It’s a balancing act, one we talk about quite frequently on this blog (see: The Balancing Act: Fun vs. Professionalism in Your Explainer Video) and pulling off the right mix requites experiences, talent and finesse. That’s why when it’s done well–like Simon Tibbs does in The New Plastics Economy–it ought to be celebrated. So let’s briefly deconstruct the beginning of this explainer–where the tone is set–and see exactly how he does it.

A lot of the video’s upbeat tone comes from the colors and the characters. Consider, for example, the very opening of the explainer. We begin smiling (but serious) character and with a cool, breezy background.

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We then (literally) pull out from that composition to explore other aspects of plastics but, importantly, as we do there’s already a sense that the seeds of tone have been planted.

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From this grounded opening and we then pivot to what’s arguably the only moment in this explainer that goes beyond literal illustration. As the narrator explains “they [plastics] help make our cars lighter,” we see the image of a car lifted by balloons:

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This is a risky decision–probably the one most likely to betray tone–and yet Tibbs manages to make it work. Partly that’s because it comes on the heels of such a grounded introduction, but mostly it works because this image doesn’t call attention to itself. It’s playful, but not in a way that says hey-hey-look-at-me, mostly because it’s not played as a punchline. In fact, this sequence is about three benefits of plastics (1. Lighten Cars 2. Protect Food 3. Insulate Homes) and yet, importantly, it’s the first item on the list. If played for a punchline, it would have come last and we’d have held on it, but that’s just not the kind of video it is. And that’s important, because an explainer video that knows it’s tone, has a much greater chance of being effective.

2. Sound Effects

When we talk about the audio elements of an explainer video, we tend to focus on voice-over and score. But great sound effects can go a long way towards enhancing the power of a video as is the case in The New Plastics Economy. In particular, there are a few types of noises that really help elevate the explainer.

[And, before we list them off, please forgive in advance our probably-misguided attempt to name these impactful noises!]

The Bubbly Pop: This noise is used several times to introduce an assortment of items. It works really well to build anticipatory energy.

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The Drippity Drop: Almost like a counter to the noise referenced above, this one is used to highlight the diminishment of something. It’s used effectively at the :19 second mark to inform us that only a low, low, lower-than-you-thought percentage of plastic is recycled.

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Assorted Ambient Noises: There are a few spots where true-to-life ambient noise is used,. Whether it’s tranquil waters or vessel noises, each of the examples below help to subtly continue grounding the story.

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3. Translating the Topic into Dollars and Cents

While the Produce-Use-Recover cycle highlighted in the video bears some resemblance to the familiar refrain of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, the underlying message of this explainer is not one of environmental concern. It’s about resource management and to underscore that point and sell home the point, the video provides the viewer with an actual dollar amount that is lost every year. And that amount–which we won’t spoil here–is certainly enough to help viewers see the economics of plastics in a newly revised way…

Questions? Comments? Contact IdeaBlog@idearocketanimation.com

Blake Harris

Blake Harris

Blake Harris is the author of "Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation."
Blake Harris

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